After the dismal AmLaw 100 results that came out last month, it's no surprise that things aren't magically looking better for the legal industry. After being doused with that bucket of iced sewer water, pretty much everyone was expecting 2009 to be a little slow out of the gates.
Still, it's always a little intimidating when numbers come out that confirm dire predictions so resoundingly. The Hildebrandt International Peer Monitor Index, released on May 11,
reports that the demand for legal services dropped by 8% between the
first quarter of this year and Q1 2008. The index examines the demand
for legal services across 33 legal markets, as well as attorney
productivity, billing rates and direct and overhead expenses.
Francisco fared better than other markets, with demand dropping by only
1%, but the managers of the index cautioned against reading too much
into that result. Since two major law firms failed in SF, the slightly
better figure might be the consequence of those partners bringing new
business to the law firms left standing.
Demand in other US markets . . . well, why ruin your day, right? The numbers, they ain't good.
addition to the drop in demand, law firms also slowed the pace at which
they increase their billing rates. Usually, firms average a 7%
increase each year. So far in Q1 2009, the rate is 3%.
little tidbit, combined with the index's finding that attorney
productivity has fallen by 11.5% compared to this time last year, means
that the rising tide of attorney lay-offs isn't likely to subside
In order to end on a positive note, however, I feel like I should mention that work for bankruptcy attorneys was up by 15%.